Understanding Root Cause Analysis
page 5 of 7
by Uday Denduluri
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Fish Bone Diagram

Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa, a Japanese quality control statistician, has invented the fishbone diagram. Hence, it is also referred as an Ishikawa diagram. Its analyses provide a systematic way of looking at effects and the causes that create or contribute to those effects. It looks like a fish skeleton when it is depicted which is why it is known as a Fish bone diagram. Let us understand how it looks before we take a scenario and try to explain the same.

Figure 2

As shown in the figure, the causes (Cause1, Cause2, Cause3 and Cause4) for the Effect have been shown. We use Fishbone diagrams for some of thes reasons stated below.

·         To study a problem/issue to determine the root cause.

·         To study all the possible reasons why a process is having difficulties or Problems.

·         Identifying the areas for data collection.

·         To study why a process is not performing properly or producing the desired results.

Let us now take a real time scenario and try to understand it.

Scenario – Schedule Variance of the Project life cycle is 30%

Factors – One of the major factors that lead to the schedule variance is insufficient requirements Analysis. Due to this, the design phase has gotten delayed and also effected, coding phase is also effected, the testing delayed, etc. Here, our problem or effect that we are currently discussing is about the schedule variance of the entire project and not a particular phase. Hence, we take into account all the factors (even if they are interdependent on each other).

Figure 3

Figure 3 shows a fishbone diagram explaining the problem “Schedule Variance.” One of the main causes shown in the figure is “Insufficient Requirements.” These can have sub-cause(s) like unrealistic project plan, which leads to insufficient requirements. Lack of domain knowledge can lead to insufficient requirements. Delay of requirements [Lack of requirements document] has led to delay in design phase. The lack of design documents leads to delay in the coding. Lack of motivation can lead to attrition rate of man power. All these causes have led to the schedule variance of the project up to 30%.

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User Comments

Title: Root Cause Analysis   
Name: Chuck
Date: 2008-06-12 11:16:15 PM
You can get some free videos at
Title: More on Root Cause Analysis   
Name: Jane V.
Date: 2007-06-05 4:29:48 AM
Thanks for the overview. Another excellent source on Root Cause Analysis is: http://www.12manage.com/methods_root_cause_analysis.html
Title: Understanding Root Cause Analysis   
Name: Naveen
Date: 2007-05-17 7:25:45 AM
Some of the text in "Figure 3" of this article is not readable. Can someone upload a better picture?

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